Sightseeing

“…I held my breath because it seemed the only sound left in the world and all around me then was an extraordinary silence.  It made me feel light, that silence, as if I might float to the ceiling, as if I might be able to open my arms, flap them, and fly with the sparrows.  I don’t know how long I sat there holding my breath in the dark, but I thought then of how loud the world could be, so much clatter and noise, and of how lovely and rare was a moment like this when one need not listen to anything at all.”

I read about Sightseeing on Lotus’s blog, and it sounded like an intriguing read.  At the time, I had a credit at Amazon.com (I’m guessing a Christmas gift, since she wrote her review in January), so I ordered it, and it was put on my TBR pile.  I dusted it off for the TBR Challenge, and I’m really glad I did.

Sightseeing, Rattawut Lapcharoensap’s book of seven engrossing short stories, sucked me in right away.  It’s also a quick read, so that if you wish to savor these stories, you must practice restraint and put the book down now and again.

Farangs is the term for foreigners in Thailand, specifically Caucasians.  It is also the story of a young Thai man in a tourist town, who has a history of falling in love with American women in bikinis, women on vacation with a return ticket in their pocket.

At the Cafe’ Lovely is the story of a boy’s coming of age in the hands of his brother, and their attempts to escape the despair and pain of their mother, who has yet to recover from the pain of their father’s death.  The love between these brothers is wonderful to watch, while their frustration and agony is painful to experience.

Draft Day is a difficult story to read…the story of a privileged young man granted immunity from the draft, even while watching as those less fortunate are sent to battle.  His guilt is palpable.

Sightseeing is a quick journey, a mother and son on a trip that they would probably not take if everything at home were OK.  The poignancy of their journey is lovely.

Priscilla the Cambodian tells of two young Thai boys, living in a community beset by an influx of Cambodian refugees.  At first the boys join in the hatred and anger toward the foreigners, foreigners who bring with them plummeting housing prices, the failure of a neighborhood to thrive, hatred of anything that is different.  But they meet Priscilla, a young girl with gold teeth, who challenges their beliefs.

Don’t Let Me Die in This Place is the story of an American man who has suffered a stroke, is now confined to a wheelchair, cannot move his right side, and does not speak the language of his Thai daughter-in-law and grandchildren.  He feels keenly the loss of his dignity and his sense of self, which he takes out upon his family.

Cockfighter is told from the sole female in the book, a 15 year old girl with a father who fights roosters, and a mother who sews beads onto bras for American customers.  The father has a point to prove against the local mob boss type, while the mother wants, desperately, for him to let this way of life go.  The mob boss’s son has an eye for the protagonist, an eye that terrifies her with its brutality and diligance.

Lapcharoensap is a young Thai-American writer, and his stories deal with universal issues like racism, lust, love, pain, and generational devotion and failures.  Lapcharoensap writes beautiful stories, stories that get to the heart of humanity and the pain of loss and suffering.  I tried to read this book slowly, to savor it, but I ate it up like a delicious bowl of ice cream.  Give it a go…I suspect you’ll love it.

2 thoughts on “Sightseeing

  1. Sometimes when you get a really good collection of shorts from an author, you can’t wait to read more of their work. I hope Lapcharoensap’s other work doesn’t disappoint you the way some of Donald Hall’s did for me. I really enjoyed The Ideal Bakery, but couldn’t get into his poems (which he is famous for). I guess I “got no culture.”

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